Defining Domestic Violence:
Over the period of time, as domestic violence has propagated in our society, the focus of sociologists and researchers on this topic has increased. In family studies, abuse and domestic violence has emerged as an area of great interest because of the impact not being limited to a single generation. Over the period of time, a deliberate effort was made on the parts of researchers to properly define the boundaries of domestic violence and lay down clear foundations about the actions that constitute domestic violence and abuse. The definitions provided by Pence and Paymar (1996) and Mullender and Humphreys (1998) are often used as standards for researchers in the field of domestic violence. Domestic violence is usually associated with intimate relationship, including the ones between husband and wife and other categories of romantic relationships. According to Pence and Paymar (1996) and Mullender and Humphreys (1998), domestic violence is characterized by actions which fall into the domain of different kinds of abuse including physical, emotional and sexual. Intimidating actions, belittling and threatening also constitute domestic violence. Domestic violence is often associated with abusive actions performed by men against the women, but there have been instance of men being subjected to domestic violence in abusive relationships as well. Domestic violence can also occur among couples belonging to the same sex. Power and Control issues form one of the most important dimensions of domestic violence and the purpose of the abusive actions is often to apprise one of the partners of the authority of the other. Domestic violence is a primary manifestation of the exercise of control from one party.
Domestic Violence as a social issue:
Now that the definition of the domestic violence is clear, it is important to understand and highlight domestic violence as a problem that is more social in nature as personal. With the levels that domestic violence has propagated to in our society, it has emerged into a societal attitude. The perception in the society about women being the 'weaker sex' has a lot to do with the mounting levels of domestic violence among women. It is a known fact that in romantic relationships, women are not always the ones experiencing violence but historical statistics show that the predominant sex who experience violence are usually the women. Also, the violence carried out by men against their partners is far more damaging in its intensity as compared to that carried out by women. Domestic violence is not something that is a characteristic of a specific relationship; rather it is something is often passes down from one generation to another. When children view violence as being a part of their parents' relationships, they often grow up to be abusers themselves and start viewing domestic violence as a practice that is acceptable. Because of these reasons, it is important that we view domestic violence as a social evil and steps should be taken accordingly for the eradication of this practice.
Research the rates of domestic violence in the United States and in Ohio. Are there upward or downward trends?
Domestic Violence in United States and in Ohio:
There is no doubt about the fact that Domestic violence has been on the rise over the period of time because of withering of the social fabric and other societal changes. Mary Kay Truth about Abuse is one of the national surveys in United States which is carried out to understand the ratio of domestic violence in the country and the state of domestic violence shelters in the country. According to the most recent survey carried out Mary Kay Truth about Abuse in 2011, it has been highlighted that Domestic violence has increased in the country for third consecutive years. This actually shows the critical situation that the American society is facing, with abuse and domestic violence persisting in our households and the funding sources for these victims diminishing over the period of time. (Mary Kay Inc, 2011)
According to the Statistics reported by the Domestic Violence Resource Centre, twenty five percent of all women have experienced domestic violence at some period during their life time. Just by looking at this one statistic, we can imagine the alarming rate at which the domestic violence is increasing in our society, and the levels that it has reached. In case of violence by intimate partners, 85 percent of the victims are women while men constitute only 15 percent of the victims. The range of women in United States subjected to domestic violence each year has been identified to be 600,000 to 6000,000. (Domestic Violence Resource Centre, 2011)
If we specifically consider Ohio, the situation is no better and although domestic violence is considered to be a crime according to the legislation of the State, the crime is one the rise. In even the most densely populated cities of the State, there are very few shelters for victims of domestic violence. Ohio is one of the states where the protection for the domestic violence victims is the least developed and victims often find it very difficult to get out of abusive situations. The condition of these shelters is dilapidated and it is very difficult for them to cater for the large number of victims who seek protection. In as recently as 2010, about eighteen hundred new cases of protection against domestic violence were filed in Franklin County, which is the greatest number that has ever been filed before in Ohio, which shows that domestic violence is not only on the rise, but has reached alarming levels.
Impact on Society:
Understanding the costs related to domestic violence help further strengthen the idea that domestic violence is not a personal issue and is a societal problem. Because domestic violence is a punishable crime in most of the American States, the impact of the domestic violence on the society is usually borne by the government and the law enforcement agencies in the form of court costs and trial related costs. A lot of time is also wasted on the trials and both or one of the parties usually loses their employment while they are pursuing the case because they are not able to give time to their jobs. However the greatest societal impact is faced by the children who are viewing and experiencing an abusive relationship. According to social scientists, there is a very huge probability that children whose parents have an abusive relationship resort to domestic violence in their own relationships as well. These children grow up to be individuals striving for control in their relationships and aiming for it by violating the other partner. Considering the fact that children are the future of the country, raising a generation that is comfortable with domestic violence as a phenomenon is no doubt horrifying. The abusive relationship between the parents and the domestic violence often shapes the personality of the child and has an impact on the way he handles and regards relationships. For valuing relationships and for giving them their due respect, it is very important that a child is raised in an environment where he is taught to respect relationships and nourish them. Apart from that, violence among the parents also causes stress and is detrimental for the emotional health of the children. Stress at such an early stage in life hinders the learning abilities of the children and deteriorates their health. (Sternberg at al, 1993)
Conflict Theory and Domestic Violence:
In my opinion, conflict theory is one of the most apt sociological constructs that can be used for understanding not only domestic violence, but other conflicting situations like war and poverty. According to the conflict theory, the society that we live in is in a constant state of conflict, because of resources that are limited in nature and people who have resources and people who do not have resources.
If we view a marriage as a social situation, the conflicts in this situation instantly become understandable. There are different resources like talent, money, a good job or a reputation that a person in a marriage might or might not have. Not having a certain resources often generates a sense of inferiority complex and a subsequent sense of conflict. When the conflict becomes intensified, it then leads to abusive behavior on the part of one of the partners or domestic violence. Very often, conflict arises in a relationship simply because one of the partners has more money than the other, or has a better job than the other. In order to make up for one's hurt ego, the partner often resorts to violence.
Sometimes, domestic violence also arises because of the need of the one of the partners to feel more in control. The conflict is generated by one of the partners who need to feel more in control. In order to show that sense of authority to the other person, one of the partners usually physically or sexually abuses the other person.
To avoid such instances of domestic violence it is important that the conflicts are kept to a minimum level and are resolved at the lowest possible level. If the conflicts start intensifying, violence starts erupting in relationships, not only affecting the people who are in an abusive relationship, but those around them as well.
Battered Wife Syndrome:
A battered wife syndrome or a battered woman syndrome is one of the many after effects of physical abuse on a woman, who has been suffering from it for a very long time. When the abuse crosses the bearable threshold and the woman finds it very difficult to cope, she sometimes decides to fight back. However this only happens when the woman has been tortured so much that she chooses to forego all that she had wanting to keep, by bearing the violence. Usually women bear with minor attempts at violence for their children or to save their marriages. There have been instances of women bearing whole life times of abuse just in order to cling to the sense of security that marriage presents them. However, as a result of battered wife syndrome, women usually fight back and choose to defend themselves. In other words, battered wife syndrome is an activity at self defense.
The most common symptoms of the battered wife syndrome include a loss of self esteem and feeling responsible for the breaking up of marriage and for violence. The person also becomes ashamed of being in a violent situation. Battered wife syndrome is not a condition that is limited to the women. Children often feel the same plight when they are subjected to physical abuse for a very long period of time by a parent or a guardian. (Walker, 1995)
Battered woman syndrome is one of the conditions that are often used by attorneys and lawyers in favor of the women in the court of law, against charge of murder or extreme violence. A defense on the basis of the battered woman syndrome helps the jury objectively analyze the situation that the defendant was in. Battered woman syndrome is also used by the lawyers to project a need on the part of the woman to protect herself from the abuse that she has been facing repeatedly. Experts believe that battered woman syndrome can be used as a plea for self defense and also gives the victim a chance at therapy and treatment. However it is important that the evidence regarding the battered wife syndrome is reinforced a psychiatric expert or a psychologists and every instance of violence on the part of a woman should not be treated as a case of battered woman syndrome.
Domestic Violence Resource Centre. (2011). DOMESTIC VIOLENCE STATISTICS. Retrieved 2012, from Domestic Violence Resource Centre: http://www.dvrc-or.org/domestic/violence/resources/C61/#dom
Mary Kay Inc. (2011). Retrieved 2012, from Business Wire - A Berkshire Hathaway Company: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20110426006469/en/Domestic-Violence-Rises-Nationwide-Year-Economy-Struggles
Mullender, A. and Humphreys, C. 1998 Domestic Violence and Child Abuse: policy and practice issues for local authorities and other agencies, London, Local Government Association.
Pence, E. and Paymar, M. 1996 Education Groups for Men Who Batter: the Duluth model, (2nd edition), New York, Springer.
Sternberg, K., Lamb, M., Greenbaum, C., Dawud. S., Cortes, R., Krispin, O., and Lorey. F. 1993 Effects of domestic violence on children's behavior problems and depression, Developmental Psychology, 29, 44-52.
Walker, L. E. A. 1995, Understanding battered woman syndrome, Trial, vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 30-37.